Sunday, January 30, 2011

A word (or two) about preservatives Part I

Well what began as one innocent blog entry has turned into a three part series because as I went through my books and other resources I found that there was a lot of information and wanted to paint a whole picture for the reader.  Please enjoy my little preservative series.

This is something we are often asked about regarding our lotions and scrubs.  In a word, yes we use preservatives because we are a responsible company who wishes to do no harm to our wonderful customers.  Now let's explore why we consider it responsible and safe to use preservatives.  While we are at it, let's explore different types on the market as well as "natural" versus synthetic.

We will discuss some commonly used preservatives which can be found in products produced by smaller companies such as Soapsmiths.

1. Germaben II- Ingredients: Propylene Glycol, Diazolidinyl Urea, Methylparaben, Propylparaben
I know you see the word "paraben"  we will discuss this in another blog post.  This preservative is ideal for both oil and water emulsions.  It is a complete antimicrobial preservative system which has broad spectrum coverage.  The two parabens listed help to make it effective against bacterias as well as yeast and mold.  According to the material safety data sheet (MSDS) while this product can cause irritation to eyes and skin at full strength (this is NEVER the case when used in formulations) studies indicate that there are no known chronic health hazards.

2. Phenonip- Ingredients: Phenoxyethanol (and) Methylparaben (and) Ethylparaben (and) Butylparaben (and) Propylparaben (and) Isobutylparaben.
Much like Germaben in what is will protect against.  This preservative will work in both water and oil based emulsions.  It is a broad spectrum antimicrobial and also effective against yeast and mold.

3. Optiphen Plus- Ingredients: Phenoxyethanol (and) Caprylyl Glycol (and) Sorbic Acid
ISP's second globally approved preservative in the Optiphen family developed as an alternative for personal care formulations requiring a paraben and formaldehyde-free preservative system, particularly within lower pH systems. Optiphen Plus performs best in formulations below 6.0 pH, but is also proven effective at pH levels above 6.0.  From personal experience I know that this preservative performs better in oil based emulsions.  Also it has pH restraints which must be taken into consideration.

4. NataPres- Ingredients: Glycerin, leuconostoc/radish root ferment filtrate, lonicera japonica (honey-suckle) flower extract, lonicera caprifolium (honeysuckle) extract, populus tremuloides bark extract, glucono-lactone.  This is a newer preservative to hit the market and you will probably start hearing about it and seeing it more in the future.  We could not find it's MSDS sheet but will keep looking as that is a good source which will measure this preservative and challenge as the previous ones have been.  

A reliable vendor did an independent test in their lab and published their findings, here they are:
NataPres™ it turns out is just another ineffective natural preservative riding the wave of consumer demand.  We tested out NataPres™ in our lab and the intital results were promising.  It passed early testing, but eventually failed.  When Ryan called the NataPres™ manufacturers with our failed results they revealed that NataPres™ needed to be used in conjunction with an anti-fungal agent to create a properly preserved emulsion.
Ryan asked if their lab results with NataPres™ were similiar to ours and found that indeed they had found in their testing that it failed against fungus.

Don't be fooled by ingredients that sound too good to be true.

Resources: (review of the NataPres preservative)

Milady's skincare and cosmetic ingredients dictionary, 3rd Edition By: Natalia Michalun and M. Varinia Michalun

The green beauty guide By: Julie Gabriel (for the MSDS sheets and ingredients) (for the MSDS sheets and ingredients)

Stay bubbly my friends

~Your Soapsmith

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Natural vs. Synthetic

Now that we have defined what organic really means scientifically, lets explore natural vs. synthetic and try to better understand what that means to us as consumers.

It's unfortunate that the word synthetic has such a negative connotation in today's world, there are many natural substances which are harmful and we would never think to use (snake venom and poison ivy for example), but the second someone sees or hears synthetic it is automatically bad and will cause some awful ailment.

Let's look at this more closely.  Synthetic ingredients can be just as effective and may have certain advantages over ingredients derived naturally from plants. Why?  Because they are formulated in a controlled and sterile environment and often times studies for months, even years and decades after they have been created.  They are tweaked and improved upon as new science comes to light.  Also synthetic ingredients are often times inspired by something that was originally natural and then improved upon in a laboratory.

For instance hyaluronic acid is an ingredient used to bind moisture in formulations, the natural version of this substance was originally derived from rooster combs. While a great ingredient its synthetic counterpart is more stable with more water binding properties and predictable when used in formulations not to mention the roosters are much happier to keep their combs.  If we as consumers all only wanted natural ingredients our environment could be seriously affected adversely.  Whole races of animals would be wiped off the planet, forests would be completely gone, etc.  Let the scientists take the natural ingredients and work with them to produce the synthetic cousin so we can keep this blue marble spinning.

Are all natural ingredients bad?  Of course not, there are many that are great, the important thing to understand is to be able to find the balance between the worlds of natural and synthetic.  Some natural resources cause a negative environmental impact and should not be considered, synthetic ingredients really shine in this department.  Both have positive and negative drawbacks and both need to be researched with an open mind in order to make informed decisions. 

So the next time you are shopping for your new bath and body product, remember to read the ingredient list with an open mind, if you don't recognize an ingredient don't automatically think that it is bad, I encourage you to look it up, sometimes the long scary names are merely the INCI names or "International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients" which simply means the scientific name which is recognized world wide. 

We believe in education our already intelligent consumers with the correct information and not some marketing mumbo jumbo which has become the norm in society these days.  We encourage you to ask us questions about our products and ingredients, we are always happy to answer and help you to make the right decision for your skin and lifestyle.

 Stay bubbly my friends
~ Your Soapsmith

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Organic Vs. Inorganic - The science behind the matter

This terminology is not to be confused with the terms Natural and Synthetic, although they seem to have become interchangeable lately, which is unfortunate because they are not one in the same.

Let's break this down.
Scientifically speaking:
  • An organic object is an object that contains carbon
  • All living things, whether they are plants or animals, contain carbon
  • The term organic is often used to mean "natural" because of its association with living things, the term also applies to things that have never been alive.
Examples are: gasoline, plastics, synthetic fabrics, pesticides and fertilizers.  These products are manufactured from natural gas and oil, which are the remains of plants and animals that died millions of years ago.   

Organic compounds will burn.

Inorganic objects:
  • do not contain carbon
  • they are substances that are not and never were alive
Examples: Metals, minerals, pure water and clean air are examples of inorganic substances,

Inorganic substances will not burn.

Stay bubbly my friends~
Your Soapsmith

Monday, January 24, 2011

Understanding Sun Protection

There are two types of sunscreen.  Chemical and Physical.  Chemical screens ABSORB the sun's rays while physical ones REFLECT the rays.

Physical sunscreens:
  • titanium dioxide
  • zinc oxide 
Chemical sunscreens:
  • octinoxate (octyl methoxycinnimate)
  • octisalate (octyl salicylate)
  • oxybenzone (benzophenone)
What is SPF?  SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor which was developed by scientists who were studying physical sun damage in 15 minute increments.  In order to better understand what those numbers mean on your sunscreen bottle there is a formula which can be followed to estimate how long your sunscreen can protect you.  This applies to both physical and chemical sunscreens.

Say you have a sunscreen with an SPF of 4:

SPF 4 X 15 minutes = 1 hour
60 minutes

Other examples:
SPF 8 X 15 minutes = 2 hours
60 minutes

SPF 15 X 15 minutes = 3.75 hours
60 minutes

SPF 35 X 15 minutes = 8.75 hours
60 minutes

SPF 45 X 15 minutes = 11.25 hours
60 minutes

SPF 50 X 15 minutes = 12.5 hours
60 minutes

And so on, but remember even though an SPF of 50 MAY protect for up to 12.5 hours other factors such as sweat and swimming will the time it is effective to plan accordingly and re-apply liberally if you are playing in the sun.

28 June 2019- Edit to add.

Over the years I learned a few more things about sun protection and thought I would share it here. First, sunscreen has a job, it's job is to protect you from sunburn and the harm that comes with it. Because it has a job and you need to know it can do its job sunscreen must go through testing and approval by the FDA, it is technically considered a "drug". The process of getting an item tested and approved through the FDA is very costly and not something most home makers can afford to do. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE always buy sunscreen that has been FDA approved. By doing so you know that it will work as it claims to and will keep you protected and safe. 

Stay safe my friends
~your Soapsmith

Thursday, January 20, 2011

What is African Black Soap?

True African Black Soap
 African black soap is an all-natural soap hand-crafted in Western Africa . There are more than 100 different varieties of African black soap. The production and recipe for the soap varies depending on the region of Africa that it is made. Most black soap is made with a blend of plantain skin, cocoa pod powder, tropical honey, and virgin coconut oil. African black soap is most commonly hand-crafted by village women in Africa who make the soap for themselves and to support their families.

What Makes Black Soap Different:
  • Natural source of vitamin A, E and Iron
  • Can help to relieve acne, oily skin, clear up blemishes
  • Can help with skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis
  • Can help reduce stretch marks
  • Can be used to shave with
  • Contains no preservatives, color enhancers or fragrances
  • Can be drying to some skin types
How Black Soap is Made:

1 - Leaves and bark of various trees and plants are burned in a vat or kettle. These may be leaves from banana trees, plantain skins, palm tree leaves, shea tree bark, and/or cocoa pods.

2 - Water is added to ashes to be filtered. Oils such as coconut oil, shea oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil, and cocoa butter are added to the water to create the soap.

3 - The soap is then hand-stirred by local women for at least a day and then set out to cure for two weeks.

To my knowledge a soap calculator is not used as these recipes are passed from one generation to the next and vary a little from village to village. I believe that this is the reason it can feel more harsh and be more drying than some other hand made soaps. I find it fascinating that this is still the common method for making soap in some parts of the world.

People have tried to re-create African black soap in the western world, but it has never been able to truly replicate the authentic product. This is because genuine black soap is created using age-old traditions that are passed down from one generation to the next in smaller villages in Africa.

I hope you enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed looking it up and writing about it.
Till next time,
~Your Soapsmith

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Home Skin care Part I

Today I thought it would be nice to put up a fun home spa recipe for all to try.  I pulled out my mountain of papers and recipes and began to sift through looking for THE recipe of the day.  UGH!  Who makes these things up?!?  Either they have ingredients that wouldn't possibly be readily available in someone's home (seriously - who keeps dried yarrow on hand?).  Or they are recipes that I am convinced the author never tried on their own face but still decided to recommend it.....yikes!
For today I decided to change gears a little, let's talk about proper face care steps. 

These three steps should be done twice daily, make it your personal time, even if it is only 5-10 minutes that you get.
 Remember to include your neck in this process as it will age just as fast as the skin on your face and is often forgotten.

1. Cleanse: this will rid your skin of dirt, makeup and oils

2. Tone: this will close pores after they have been cleansed, making them appear smaller, toners also help to balance the pH of your skin.

3. Moisturize and sunscreen: to replenish and protect your skin

Let's talk about the daily routine and discuss a little further.  While you want to cleanse your face and rid it of the grime of the day you don't want to completely strip it twice a day of it's natural protection, also known as sebum.  Find a gentle cleanser that makes you feel clean without your skin feeling too tight and dry, the more harsh the cleanser the harder your skin will have to work to re-set to its proper pH causing more issues in the end.  A personal favorite of mine are cleansing milks.  I didn't like them at first because they weren't bubbly and I thought therefor not cleaning my face, but after a trial period of using them I realized that my face felt great, it was less dry and just felt nice to the touch after.

An example of cleansing milk

Toner is one of the great unsung heroes of skin care.  Although there are many ways toner can be formulated most toners help to close pores and re-balance pH which is very important for the health of your skin.  The healthy pH of skin is about 5.5 but cleansers usually have a more alkali pH so the skin needs to be re-set afterward so it does not go into overdrive.  When skin goes into overdrive the sebaceous glands work extra hard to re-coat your face sometimes they overshoot causing your skin to feel oily soon after washing your face, and who wants that to happen?  I like to put my toner into a little spray bottle for good coverage on my face and neck.

Toner in a spray bottle

Now the final step of your regular regimen, moisturizer.  A good skin appropriate moisturizer will help to cover and protect your skin from daily wear and tear.  Of course a sunscreen should also be used or a moisturizer with a sunscreen for daytime.  If you live in a cold climate you may find that a lighter moisturizer works better in the summer and a little bit of a heaver one helps in the winter.  Don't mistake oily skin for moisturized skin though and don't skip moisturizer in the summer just because your skin gets oily.


There are always additional steps that can be done to further improve your skin and keep it looking young and healthy.  These things would not be done on a daily basis, maybe a couple of times per week but you will have to listen to your skin and its needs to really know.

They are:




All of which can be done at home periodically which we can discuss in another post.

Bubble on my friends
~Your Soapsmith

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New year, new post

Hello out there in Soapland!   We hope that you and yours have had a wonderful holiday season and wish for a happy, healthy new year.  As we move into this new year and anticipate all the wonderful moments it holds I also wanted to reflect on the past year.  2010 has been a big year for Soapsmiths.  We accomplished so many goals that were set that we can not thank you enough. Because of you we made it though our first year.

Although we are not a huge corporation, our customers, fans and clients come to us from all over the globe. Being somewhat smaller has made it possible to keep that close personal feeling and get to know the people who love our products and their personal skin desires.

What will the new year bring for us?

First up, liquid soaps are going to become a mainstay, so body washes and shampoos will make an appearances in all our collections. We have some new ingredients that will bring you the best of the best while remaining aware of the environment. We strive to purchase our ingredients from sustainable resources and fair trade companies which benefit the local farmers and people who produce our high quality oils.

We have been asked a couple times about teaching classes and are looking into options for this, as it sounds like a lot of fun and a great way to meet other like minded people.  We will announce this on our Facebook page as well as our site, so check back and feel free to drop us a line if you interested and we will add you to the list.

We have a bunch of other things we are involved with right now that we will release as we are able too... But know this, it will be a great new year for your skin.